A period takes up roughly 3,500 days of a woman’s lifetime. So then why do many women find it shameful and uncomfortable when discussing something so common and universal?
Not only are women finding their periods a taboo topic, they also think negatively about their period. A recent BodyLogic study looked at 1,000 women and found that millennial women report the highest “feelings of disgust and shame around their periods.”
Even in 2018, with a myriad of organizations trying to encourage periods as a positive part of life and to stop period shaming, millennial women still see menstruation as a negative, or annoying, aspect of their life.
The BodyLogic survey also found that when women learn about their period, 40 percent were taught in school and 63 percent had a parent of guardian walk them through the process. The 22 percent that relied on a friend to talk to and the 16 percent that didn’t have a talk at all were found to be impacted by feelings of shame, disgust, and sadness. Women who were able to talk to someone about their period felt more mature, interested, and feminine.
“I was raised very religious and because of this, sex education and my period were very criticized. I wasn’t given a talk, I was left in the dark about much of my sexual health. I hope I can change this in my children or in my younger siblings who are beginning to reach puberty now,” explains Tia.
What’s more interesting is that 48.7 percent of women were taught about what products to use from the box that they came in, while only 33.9 percent were taught by a guardian. That means that almost half of American women were taught how to insert a tampon, or use a sanitary pad, from the box that they came in rather than having a discussion with someone.
“I never wore tampons as a kid when I first started my period. I was terrified of the entire process and the instructions on the box freaked me out,” explains Ellie* to me about her experience with sanitary products.
As someone who suffered from vaginismus for eight years, I never went near a tampon. Friends, peers, and even my mother, found it odd that I wore sanitary pads. But I never had proper instructions, and like my friend Ellie, I was utterly horrified of the insertion process. Vaginismus made inserting a tampon impossible, which made me believe I was doing something wrong and a cycle of misunderstanding my body began early. Only 15 percent of women used tampons during their very first period and almost half waited one year before beginning to use them regularly.
Over 14 percent of millennials utilize menstrual cups in comparison to baby boomers, with a low number of only 1.5 percent. Menstrual cups have been known to be tactile as many women come into contact with their period blood. It’s confrontational. It’s in your face. It’s natural. Campaigns like, #bloodnormal and #happytobleed are campaigns that are trying to alter the mainstream attitude towards periods. With more impact, later generations may be feeling less disgust, sadness and anger over their monthly experience.
It’s no surprise that millennial women also find shame in having their period while trying to have sex, work out, swimming, go out at night, or make an appointment. Approximately 77 percent of women opted out of sex because of their period, not due to pain, but due to embarrassment.
It should help to know that experts say that sexual activity during menstruation is proven to be more pleasurable as it releases pain, adds extra lubrication, and reduces headaches.
Obviously, we have come far in sexual education and in accepting periods as a part of life. But these results have proven that millennials are still feeling shame over their body’s natural function.
Periods are powerful. They offer us insight to our health, they detect hormonal issues, they are our reproductive sensor, and even more interesting they could have possibly led to humanity’s understanding of time. So yes, periods make the world go ’round.